Monday, November 16, 2009

What Lies Ahead: Incoming TIA President Outlines Plans for Coming Year

federated insurance

In the midst of this unprecedented economic turmoil, and with the entire automotive and commercial tire sectors still struggling, there are probably very few people who would look forward to taking the helm of a major tire association.

However, as I assume the presidency of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), I see far more positives than negatives. For starters, being able to take the presidency of TIA from an expert like Dan Beach is a huge plus. He has served the association well over these last 12 months as president. Dan tackled the difficult challenges we faced this past year head-on. His tenacious attitude was well-timed for the association.

I will continue the efforts to push for TIA to lead the consumer education effort mandated by the 2007 Energy Bill, which called for a tire fuel efficiency labeling and consumer education program. As TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield explained in his Aug. 21 comments to NHTSA, dialogue between the tire sales associate and the customer at the point of sale is absolutely critical to the success of any consumer education program. TIA is a world leader in tire service training; we understand tire dealers better than anyone. And no one understands the customer better than our members. Thus, it’s a clear and logical conclusion that TIA is best equipped to handle such an important task. This is my number one goal for my term as TIA president. We have worked hard to earn this opportunity, and I believe that TIA is best suited and most qualified to lead this very important consumer education program.

Another of my goals is to continue the strong member program lineup TIA currently has. As chair of our Member Services & Benefits Committee for the past four years, I have been very much involved in the development of many of these programs. In 2009, TIA added Federated Insurance, Ceridian payroll/HR services, a package shipping discount with FedEx, ContactPoint sales training, and a partnership with Kiely Hines, which offers our members innovative and affordable health insurance.

With the addition of these programs, we have increased the potential savings to a TIA member who uses our programs to more than $27,000 a year. I encourage all of our members to take a look at these programs. They offer real savings that could help them get through these difficult economic times. We are working on a few new and exciting benefits that I hope to announce in the upcoming months.

As I mentioned above, TIA is a world leader in tire service training. This year has proven to be one of the best ever for our training department. We have greatly expanded our CTS and ATS training classes to meet booming demand. We are continuing the success of the TIA TPMS Relearn Chart with an update. We released the first-ever TIA training program for earthmover tires for the OTR industry. This state-of-the-art training program earned a Telly award, which, in the training arena, is the equivalent to an Oscar. And, we have totally revamped our Commercial Tire Service training and certification course.

In the coming year, we are exploring the possibility of updating our very successful Automotive Tire Service program; it may even include the addition of a comprehensive component on TPMS. Even during these difficult times, the smart tire business owners realize the value and importance of TIA training and certification. We continue to train hundreds of automotive, commercial and OTR tire service professionals each year, ensuring that millions of people ride on safe, well-maintained tires.

In addition to our work on the consumer education mandate of the Energy Bill, TIA has also been in the forefront of many of the governmental issues that are critical to the tire industry. We have been very much involved in the battle to prevent punitive tariffs on affordable tire imports from China. Additionally, we will continue our work on Capitol Hill in regards to health care, as it has taken on a whole new level of urgency with the mandate by President Obama to have a health care bill drafted by year’s end. Our work has not been restricted to the federal level. At the state level, we have been involved in several battles, including the one in California to prevent draconian measures against tire dealers from taking effect in respect to the issue of tire aging. We also continue to advocate Right to Repair legislation at the state level. All of these issues will be active in the coming year, and TIA’s members can rest assured that we will continue to vigorously defend their interests.

In terms of TIA’s events, 2009 was definitely a year of change and affirmation. While we made the decision to eliminate the Commercial Tire, Retread and Recycling Conference, our 2009 OTR conference continues to be that sector’s must-attend event.

And, for our Tires, Wheels & Equipment Section of the SEMA Show this year, we’ve made some bold changes. We eliminated the Breakfast with the President, replacing it with a Wine & Cheese Social and Tire Industry Honors, a new event that will honor the legends – both current and past – of the tire industry. This event was my vision, and I created it with the intent for it to quickly become THE place that the entire tire industry comes together to honor those who have made this industry great. We will recognize this year’s Tire Industry Hall of Fame inductees, and, we are excited to announce that all three major tire trade publications – including Tire Review, which will be presenting its Top Shop Award – will also be participating in this event. We have also created an International Roundtable – Best Practices in the Tire Industry & International Review of Industry Regulations.

Our 2010 events are shaping up very nicely. The 2010 OTR Conference will be held Feb. 17-20 at the beautiful Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz. We will have a rare opportunity to be part of a Caterpillar tour to witness OTR equipment in action. Anyone involved in the OTR sector knows this is the must-attend conference of the year. And, we are as committed as ever to maintaining our TWE Section at SEMA. This event remains the most important consumer tire and wheel show in North America, and I encourage everyone to attend.

I will also continue our efforts to effectively communicate with our membership, the media, the general public and the tire industry – both within the U.S. and around the world. We are expanding into electronic communications, such as via our Web site and e-mail. We have begun to “go green” at TIA. Our newsletter – The Business Owner – is available digitally to all members. In addition, with my background in the software industry, I plan on exploring the possibilities that lie ahead for TIA in the social marketing arenas.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I, along with TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield and the staff and Board, will continue to make TIA the preeminent tire organization in the world. We continue to constantly look for ways to make the association more efficient, more dynamic, more responsive, and an even greater value to our membership.